Haftaras Bechukosai

In this week’s haftarah it is written (Yirmiyah 17:11): “Like a partridge summoning chicks it did not bear, so is one who amasses wealth unjustly; in the middle of his life it will leave him, and at his end he will turn into a spoiled man.” The Maggid explains this verse as follows. A partridge that broods over chicks not its own will not gain from its efforts, for ultimately the birds it is raising will leave it. Similarly, Yirmiyahu says, it is a waste of effort to try to gain wealth through theft, deceit, and other unjust means, for such ill-gotten gains will ultimately be lost. A person might think this does not matter, for he can enjoy the wealth while he has it. Yirmiyahu therefore adds that the man who has amassed wealth unjustly will turn into a spoiled man.
The Maggid brings out the idea with an analogy. It is the nature of a river, as it flows across a stretch of land, to pick up all kinds of refuse: stones, carcasses, various foul creatures, and so on. On occasion it will dump such refuse near a city or on a good plot of land, thereby causing spoilage. Yet, if the river runs through the same area constantly, the spoilage it causes will ultimately be rectified, for after dumping a pile of refuse in a certain spot, it will eventually pick the refuse up again and carry it somewhere else. It is different, however, when the river temporarily overruns its regular channels, dumps a great pile of refuse on a distant plot, and then returns to its normal course. In this case, the spoilage will be permanent, for no team of men will be able to clear away the refuse.
The parallel is as follows. It is the nature of wealth to cause a person to develop bad tendencies. It can divert him from studying Torah and performing mitzvos. And it can cause him to turn brazen and use the power of his wealth to pursue his every whim. Indeed, wealth has produced many moral casualties. Yet, just as wealth can cause a person great spiritual harm, it also can bring a person great spiritual benefit: A wealthy person can atone for his sins by using his wealth for charity, acts of kindness, building synagogues and houses of study, marrying off orphans, and so on. It is known that charity is more powerful than any Temple offering. Thus, Daniel told Nevuchadnetzar (Daniel 4:24): “Redeem your sin through charity, and your iniquities through compassion for the poor.”
But a person can achieve spiritual gains from his wealth only when he is able to retain it. He can then use his wealth to rectify his misdeeds. It is different, though, when a person acquires wealth unjustly. In this case, Yirmiyahu says, the person loses his wealth in midlife. And then he is left only with the spiritual damage his wealth brought him: evil-hearted tendencies, debased thinking, and corrupt behavior. He cannot rectify the damage through righteous giving, for all his wealth is gone. This fate is what Yirmiyahu refers to when he says that a person who amasses wealth unjustly will turn into a spoiled man: He will be irreversibly habituated to evil.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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